Five months after Seung-Hui Cho shot and killed 32 students and faculty members at Virginia Tech—the worst shooting in U.S. history—the community of Blacksburg, Virginia, was given a chance to forgive. That opportunity came when Martin Doblmeier, the award-winning director of Bonhoeffer and other spiritual documentaries, agreed to screen his newest film for the campus.
The Power of Forgiveness is a collection of seven short stories showing the limits, difficulties, healing qualities, and unforeseen effects an act of forgiveness can have in the lives of the people who give it. The 78-minute documentary features interviews with forgiveness experts like Nobel Peace Laureate Elie Wiesel, Thomas Moore, and Buddhist master Thich Nhat Hanh, as well as new research into the psychological and physical benefits of forgiveness. A speech by Desmond Tutu on the role of forgiveness in ending apartheid is included in the DVD's special features.
In the two years Doblmeier spent crafting the film, he traveled across the globe—from Northern Ireland to Ground Zero to the Amish countryside. Along the way, he encountered powerful stories of healing and freedom, bitterness and loss. He was even confronted with his own misconceptions and, he says, his life will never be the same.
The Power of Forgiveness was recently screened at Virginia Tech and the headquarters of the United Nations, among other places. Is it gratifying to see your film make that kind of impact right off the bat?
Martin Doblmeier: I think people are responding to the idea of forgiveness as an antidote to all the anger and vitriolic behavior going on around us. You see it in movies, in the news—even on the highway when you're driving. And I think a lot of ...1